August 12, 2008

August 12, 1918: The Governor Weighs in on Co-Education

On August 12, 1918, Virginia's Governor, Westmoreland Davis, wrote to President Lyon G. Tyler, and voiced his opinion on the College's preparations for the women students who were arriving on campus in a little more than a month.

There were many issues that Davis could have had with William and Mary's co-education, such as not enough class offerings or faculty to accommodate the new students, or the fact that these women would be housed on campus. However, Davis had another concern that needed Tyler's immediate attention: the showers in the Tyler Hall bathrooms.

Davis explains that Tyler was "disregarding, at a good deal of expense, shower baths and replacing them with tubs," and that he should have been brought the matter before the State Health Department before doing so because "they [did] involve an outlay of the State's money."

Well, there are two ways to view this letter. First, if Governor Davis had the time to complain to President Tyler about the College's bathing options, then that means that the Governor had no other issues with women being present on William and Mary's campus. The other interpretation would be that Davis had such an issue with it that he was trying to find any reason why these women should not be at the College. I prefer the more positive option. Besides, if the Governor really had an issue with co-education, I think Davis would be able to find other things to complain to Tyler about, not the showers!

This letter is available in the folder "World War I" in the University Archives Subject File Collection.

This post was composed by Jordan Ecker.

For additional information about the first women students at the College of William and Mary see: When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945 by Laura F. Parrish; "The Petticoat Invasion": Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945; The Martha Barksdale Papers; and the Women at the College of William and Mary page on the Special Collections Research Center Wiki.

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